The question facing any viewer of the Japanese CG feature Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is: do you have to know the games on which it's based in order to understand the film? And the answer is: it certainly helps. But even complete novices (i.e., most parents) in the Final Fantasy world will find some entertainment in its wealth of fantasy-based action, and the animation never fails to astonish. Picking up two years after an epic battle between the forces of good (represented by brooding soldier Cloud) and evil (Cloud's former general, Sephiroth), FFVII opens in the devastated city of Midgard, whose youthful occupants suffer from a ghastly disease known as Geostigma. A trio of brothers arrives with what appears to be a cure for the plague, but their gesture conceals a more sinister purpose: to revive Sephiroth and bring about the end of the world. Cloud and his companions must once again rise to the occasion to stop the siblings and the revived Sephiroth from unleashing total destruction. Complex and self-referential to the point of occasional incomprehension, Final Fantasy VII will definitely be most appreciated by fans of the game series, but if others can look past the numbing dialogue and frenetic action (which is a bit too intense for very young children), the film offers a carefree and action-packed viewing experience. The two-disc set contains the original Japanese language version of the film as well as an English-dubbed edition (Rachel Leigh Cook and Christy Carlson Romano, among others, provide the vocal talent) and a version edited for the Venice Film Festival. A 30-minute featurette that recaps the Final Fantasy story up to VII, as well as a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and promotions for future Final Fantasy VII games and products round out the extras. --Paul Gaita
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